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BAL@CWS: Feldman goes six strong in Orioles debut

With the 7-3 win Saturday, the Blue Jays will look to end the first half of the season on a positive note.

Toronto has not played up to its expectations in the season's opening months, and will at best finish two games below .500. However, taking a road series in the rubber match against an American League East foe may go a long way into building some confidence heading into the second half.

Looking to make the lasting impression on the club's first half will be Josh Johnson, who is coming off one of his better outings against Cleveland.

Johnson, who will be making his 12th start, has been inconsistent in a Blue Jays uniform, and like his teammates, has generally not played to the level expected.

However, despite losing to the Indians, the tall right-hander allowed just two earned runs.

"A little bit, yes, but whenever we don't score any runs, my job is to put up zeros," Johnson said when asked if he's felt any frustration during his first year in Toronto. "It's tough, but I threw the ball pretty well. I'm excited for how I threw it, and [I'll] just take it into my next start."

A big part of the 29-year-old's success came from simply being more aggressive on the mound.

"Definitely more aggressive, just trying to pound the zone, trying to get strike one and see where it goes from there," Johnson said of his start. " Some of the past couple of games, I was going for edges instead of just rearing it back and throwing it in the strike zone."

Johnson will be opposed be Orioles newcomer Scott Feldman, who will be making his third start since being acquired from the Cubs.

Feldman began his Baltimore career on the right foot, but his first appearance at Camden Yards did not go the way he had hoped. He allowed seven earned runs on nine hits, a walk, and two strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings against the Rangers.

His undoing came as part of Texas' six-run sixth.

"Made some decent pitches, just seemed like everything they were hitting that inning kind of was like in a great spot," said Feldman of his final frame.

Regardless of who's on the mound, however, it may come down to who can outhit who.

"You've just got to slug it out with them," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "That's what [the Orioles] do and in a great park to hit home runs. We hit two homers, but they had the two big three-run ones [on Friday]. That's going to happen [at Oriole Park]. You've got to go toe to toe."

Blue Jays: Lawrie returns and plays second for the first time
Brett Lawrie found himself in an unfamiliar position to start Saturday's contest against the Orioles.

The 23-year-old started at second base for the first time in his career at the big league level, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

Although it was the first time he played second base in the Majors, the Blue Jays did have Lawrie play all three of his games during his rehab with Triple-A Buffalo up the middle, and he also previously played there when he was in the Brewers system.

"If we didn't feel good about it, we wouldn't play him there," Gibbons said. "It's a chance to take a look at it and see what happens. If it doesn't work, we can always shift him back."

"He's such a talented player, great hands, great feet, his reactions are always right on. So I think he's got a chance to be a really good one out there. We'll find out. He hasn't had a ton of reps, but some of our guys that have seen him play down there, some of our scouts, said he looked great."

Lawrie's return to the lineup came nearly six weeks after he sustained a sprained left ankle back in May.

"Maybe he'll give us a shot in the arm," Gibbons said of the move. "Right now, we're sitting in the cellar. If he struggles out there, we can't go any further down than where we are in the standings right now. But if he gives us a shot in the arm, who knows? Maybe he's the key to getting us going again."

Orioles: Showalter relying on starters for strong second half
Baltimore's starting pitching has deterred the club from making an even bigger splash in the AL East, and it will be a determining factor in the club's success after the All-Star break, according to Orioles manager Buck Showalter.

"[If] we go deeper into our games with our starting pitching [like last year], we'll have some fun," Showalter said. "If not, it will be a challenge."

O's starters have averaged just over 5 2/3 innings per start, and sat 26th in the Majors with a 4.75 ERA entering Saturday's game.

As a result, the bullpen had the fourth-most innings pitched with 301 1/3 in the American League before Saturday's games.

It's that type of work and pressure that the Baltimore skipper would like to avoid.

Helping in that manner would be the return of Wei-Yin Chen, whom Showalter hopes will help stabilize the rotation.

"If we can stay healthy, I think we're going to have a chance to be competitive with our rotation," Showalter said. "We've got some people in place that could help us if we have a problem. But we know that can change."

Worth noting
• With the victory Saturday, the Blue Jays are 7-12 since winning 11 straight back in June.

• The Orioles are 5-7 against the Blue Jays this season, although most of that damage came during a three-game sweep in Toronto from June 21-23.

• With both Chris Davis (No. 36) and Adam Jones (No. 18) homering on Saturday, it marked the 16th straight game in which the Orioles homered against division foes, tying the franchise record in divisional play set May 18-June 24, 1979.

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